Matt and I get questions all the time of "Do you do pa-leo" and "What exactly can/can't you eat"? This of course usually turns into a very long conversation trying to explain how and why we eat what we do, so I wanted to take the time to explain that here and also how you can adapt Paleo to make it work for you.
I always like to establish the fact that we consider the way we eat to be a "lifestyle", not a "diet". A "diet" usually means a list of do's and don'ts, with the goal of losing weight. We have a general guideline we follow that we believe is healthy, preventative against disease, and helps our bodies operate the most efficiently. From that guideline, we add or detract foods based off of how our bodies react to them.
The closest official "diet" to our food choices WOULD be paleo, but we don't claim to necessarily eat paleo because we've made deviations according to what we feel is best to our bodies and feel that CrossFit's Food Guideline better suits our needs.
So what IS the Paleo Diet? The Paleo diet is basically as follows:
Do Eat - Meats, fruits, eggs, vegetables, seafood, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats.
Do NOT Eat- grains, dairy, any processed food, legumes, starches, alcohol, or refined sugars.
We follow CrossFit's Guideline:
“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.” (CrossFit Journal, September 2002, “The Garage Gym”).
I LOVE how simple that is (super easy for remembering while walking through the grocery store)!
Yes, it's similar to Paleo, but also different in that it's more general, and in my opinion, easier to follow and gives you more freedoms. I also love how it naturally gives you an idea of what portion sizes should be on your plate: more meat and veggies than fruit, more fruit than starch, and a little bit of nuts and seeds on the side. Bam. That easy.
Our main goals in our food eating habits:
1. We strive to eat whole foods (1 ingredient - itself, such as meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit, etc., and definitely non-processed)
2. We strive to eat gluten free (this applies more to me since he is completely gluten intolerant)
3. We limit our "sweets" intake to once a week, and even then make sure they are gluten free and have a natural sugar source (maple syrup, palm sugar, etc.)
Sounds pretty similar to Paleo, but Matt and I deviate even more because we both enjoy dairy and a little starch in our diet, so in some ways you can say that we simply adjusted Paleo to fit us and adopted CrossFit's Food Guidelines (which especially helps in making sure you have correct portions of food on your plate).
I LOVE my latte every morning (My Nespresso Machine is very near and dear to my heart) and do not see any adverse affects on my body, so I'm fine with allowing that into my diet. And yes, I've tried subbing the milk for almond milk, but it just doesn't taste the same!
We also eat a lot of Greek Yogurt and love adding a little cheese and starch to some of our meals for extra taste. Just a note about the Greek yogurt - there are a lot of brands out there that are complete crap and are filled with sugar and carbs. You want to find a brand that has more grams of protein than grams of carbohydrates and very little sugar. Just read the label on the back and it's super easy to identify (we recommend "Fage" 0% Greek Yogurt)!
Before I get into how to adjust Paleo, it's important to note that if you are already doing Paleo and love it, then that's awesome! Keep going! The do's and don't of the Paleo diet are very optimal for reducing inflammation and keeping your body healthy. Some people also CAN'T deviate from strict paleo due to health concerns, and if that's the case, strict paleo SHOULD be your standard.
If on the other hand you are doing Paleo and have seen great changes in your body (as the majority of people would if they legitimately tried Paleo), but you aren't sure if you can sustain that as a lifestyle due to how strict it is (which is where I was at), then consider trying the following to see if you can adjust Paleo to fit you better:
-Understand that Paleo is a GREAT guideline, but that every person is different and our bodies react differently to foods. In other words, keep Paleo or Crossfit's Food Guideline as your base, and then experiment with adding or detracting foods to those guidelines based off of how they make you feel.
-The Best way to do this is take that particular food out of your diet for 30 days and then reintroduce it and take note on how you feel. For example: in some people dairy causes a horrible response in their body, but for me it doesn't. If you enjoy dairy, then take it out of your diet (important in letting your body get used to being without it) and then take note of how your body reacts when you drink/eat some after the 30 days. Just as a side note, I am NOT encouraging you to take twinkies out of your diet and then reintroduce them and see how you feel (haha). The food that you are taking out and want to re-introduce SHOULD still be a whole, unprocessed food or ingredients. :)
-Now here's the important part: LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Keep a food journal on how you feel after reintroducing a food. Feel bloated, tired, slow in your workouts or start getting stomach aches after you reintroduce dairy? Well then dairy probably isn't for you! Keep trying that with different foods that you would like to include in your "lifestyle" and determine which ones your body does not react adversely to. Note: only choose one food to "take out and then reintroduce" at a time so that you can legitimately analyze that specific food's full effect.
Final note: There really isn't a "one diet that fits all". I'm not here to push the way that I eat on everyone else. It does make me SO sad though to see people struggling with health issues and be medicating it (which then usually causes other side effects that also have to be medicated) rather than trying to find the root cause and eliminating that. There have been SO many people that have overcome asthma, allergies, Hashimoto, autoimmune diseases, severe daily migraines, Diabetes II, and so many more issues, SIMPLY by following a guideline such as Paleo or CrossFit's. I even had a friend who overcame two rounds of separate cancers and fully attributes it to completely changing her diet and lifestyle and trying to just FILL her body with nutrient dense and vitamin rich vegetables and meats!
So yes, I love how much BETTER my body feels and works when I follow this lifestyle (I've experienced weight loss, healthier skin, and bloating and headaches went away altogether), but the BIGGEST thing that pushed me to eat the way I do (and keeps me going when it gets hard) is the thought that through eating healthy (combined with working out regularly), I could possibly PREVENT something like cancer or Hashimoto, both diseases that run in my immediate family. Before someone freaks out on me, obviously I know that there's no guarantee, but there's also no guarantee that it couldn't prevent something like that! We are such a "reactive" society, treating our health issues after they happen. What if we could educate ourselves and future generations to be a PREVENTATIVE society?
What are your guidelines on eating healthy? Have you adopted the Paleo or CrossFit Food guidelines and seen a huge difference also?